October has seen us all feeling pink and giving some serious thought to our ‘breast friends’, but just because Breast Cancer Awareness month is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean we should put all thoughts of this subject out of our minds for another year… around 1,300 new cases of this most-evil-of-diseases are diagnosed in Singapore alone each year. If you caught Helen’s story and her journey from diagnosis to recovery, you’ll already know that the earlier it’s detected, the better the chances of kicking cancer’s ass into orbit are. As such we thought it was about time we put together a useful list of where to get screenings, mammograms and ultrasounds, and also some guidelines on what you should be looking for when doing your own regular breast checks at home…
Carrying out your own breast checks
Make it a priority to check your breasts once a month for any changes or lumps: while breast cancer can’t be prevented, detecting it early can make all the difference. Follow these easy guidelines for your own self-checks, but if you’re unsure do consult your GP, who will be only too happy to show you how to carry out the checks for yourself.
In the shower: Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area.
In front of a mirror: “Hello, you!” – give your breasts a really good visual inspection while keeping your arms at your sides. Repeat with your arms raised overhead. Keep an eye out for any changes in the contour of your breasts, any swelling, dimpling of the skin or changes in your nipples. Next rest your palms on your hips and flex your chest muscles: again check for dimpling, puckering, or changes, especially on one side.
Lying down: Finally take the weight off your feet (not always easy as a mum, we get it) and lie down: the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall when in this position. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head, and then using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure and don’t forget to give your nipple a little squeeze to check for discharge and lumps. Once you’re done, repeat these steps for your left breast.
Make it a habit to do these checks for each breast every month, and if you feel a lump, thickening, dimpling (kind of like orange peel) or maybe even a hardened knot, speak to a GP.
Breast cancer screening in Singapore – where to get a mammogram
We are so fortunate to live in a country where breast screening is readily available, and to encourage women in Singapore to start screening regularly, Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) runs a number of mammogram screening programmes:
- If you’re part of the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), women aged 50-69 years will receive mammograms at no charge at the SCS Clinic @ Bishan.
- For women who are celebrating the big 50 this year, SCS provides free mammograms to Singaporean women as part of the SCS FIT 50 Programme.
- Women aged 40 to 69 years old who do not meet the above criteria should check out the Community Mammobus Programme where Singaporeans will pay between $0-$10 for screening, PRs will pay between $25-$35 for screening and foreigners will pay $125 (but will need a referral letter from a GP). All aboard the Mammobus, people!
- Do also check out the current promotion being offered by SCS until January 2019 for $25 funding assisted screenings, open to Singaporean and PR ladies age 50 and above.
The Health Promotion Board also offers subsidies to women in Singapore for breast screenings at a number of polyclinics around Singapore. Current charges stand at $50 for citizens, $75 for PRs and $25 for Pioneers (age 65 and above).
There are also a few private centres around Singapore offering mammograms and breast screenings. If you have medical insurance, do check to see whether you may be covered for these tests. You can either make an appointment directly, or get a referral through a GP (which would usually be the case if you are claiming on insurance):
- Orchard Imaging Centre (OIC) is located on Orchard Road and you can make your appointments online via its website.
- Head over to Mammo-Care Singapore where you can book appointments Monday to Saturday online for consults and mammograms. A mammogram and ultrasound will cost you $245, and it’s located in Paragon Medical Suite.
- You can also get a mammogram in one of the major hospitals in Singapore, so speak to your GP who will be able to advise on the best and most accessible option for you.
Breast cancer screening in Singapore – where to get a breast ultrasound
A breast ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create a black and white image of breast tissues and structures, and is often suggested by a doctor to assess the size and shape of any breast lumps you may have detected. The ultrasound can often determine whether the abnormalities are potentially more serious than just innocuous breast cysts. In most instances your GP will arrange the appointment for you, but if you want to arrange your own ultrasound, these clinics can help:
- C K Yong Surgery & Breast Clinic is a one-stop specialist breast centre located in the Thomson Road area. Call 6356 3250 to make your appointment.
- The Breast Clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital has a fleet of doctors specialising in breast care. Call ahead to make your appointment, or book via its online appointment system.
So there you have it: now you know where and how to get your breasts checked. Don’t forget to always consult a doctor if you are at all concerned, or need some expert guidance on how to carry out your own checks. You’ve got this, ladies.
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